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  • Intelligent Dressing

    How To Shop Smart

    No matter where you’re shopping, be it high street or high end, the matter of value for money is an important one. A bargain is only a bargain if it wears well and lasts, so it’s crucial to look for pieces that have been made with integrity. 

    Edited by Des Lewis Words by Frankie Graddon

    Before you purchase anything, consider cost per wear. A truly smart buy is one that works with what you already have in your wardrobe and can be mixed into outfits again and again. Try sticking to the rule of three: are there three items you own that the new piece will go with? If not, it’s perhaps wise to step away. 


    With so much choice available, it can be daunting finding those smart-price treasures – but when you do, there’s really nothing like it. So, we’ve drawn on our extensive shopping experience to put together a guide for navigating the rails. From the perfect T-shirts to keep-forever bags, here’s how to shop smart. 




    The holy grail of wardrobe finds is a great T-shirt that hangs just right. When choosing one, check the stitching around the collar and sleeves. Hidden seams are a more costly way of producing a garment, whereas cheaper interlocked seams (i.e. ones that are visible) look poorer-quality and tend not to last as long. Go for styles made from 100% cotton, linen or cashmere. These look more luxe, are breathable and will wash well. Lastly, look at the collar; a classic crew that sits on the collar bone goes perfectly under jumpers and cardigans and won’t ever feel dated. 





    How to find a blouse that lasts? Look closely at embellishment and embroidery. Pre-made patches that are sewn on will make a piece look less expensive, so choose one that has this kind of detail directly stitched into the garment. Check over details. Naff buttons can really let a piece down, so look for good-quality, plain ones or styles with hidden fastenings. Finally, make sure you can machine wash it. There’s no point finding a smart-price gem, only to have to spend a fortune dry-cleaning it. 





    For knitwear that will stand the test of time, reach for pieces made from either cashmere or merino wool. This needn’t cost a fortune – there are plenty of good-quality options at high-street and mid-level price points. A blend with a low percentage of synthetic fibres is okay, as it often means it’s machine washable. Always wash on a cool, delicate cycle, though, to prevent shrinkage. Look for knits with a generous thread count and elevating details such as ribbed cuffs and collars. 





    You don’t need to spend a lot to find beautiful dresses and skirts – but you do need to be fastidious about fabric. Look for styles with a high percentage of natural fabric, be that cotton, wool or linen. Not only are these more comfortable to wear (synthetics get sweaty) they also hang better and won’t go shiny with wear. Denim is easier to get right at a smart price point – just go for a classic mid wash. And if a dress or skirt has a dodgy in-built slip, don’t be afraid to unpick it and replace it with a luxe, breathable one instead. 





    When it comes to jackets and coats, stick to the less-is-more rule. The less detail, the more expensive the coat will look. Avoid anything with excessive hardware and superfluous embellishments, keeping to clean silhouettes instead. Black looks good at most price points, as does khaki and denim (just make sure the latter is stiff without much stretch so that the shape holds). Cheaply made lining ruins a coat, so reach for unlined styles instead.





    Jeans are one of the easiest categories to buy smart, but there are still a few pointers worth noting. Denim with high stretch will sag and bag over time, so choose styles made from firm, thick denim, with only a small percentage of elastane. Alternatively, go for non-stretch denim – this works particularly well with vintage cuts. Keep to classic washes and avoid fussy trims and hardware. Limit machine washing – using a refreshing spray instead will make them last longer. 




    Well-fitting, quality trousers are by no means easy to find. When buying chinos or cargo pants, look for a mid-weight fabric that drapes rather than clings. A little bit of stretch will give a snug and comfortable fit, but stick to low percentage otherwise pieces may lose their shape. If choosing a tailored style, make sure the lines are crisp and stitching is perfect. Concealed or discreet fastenings look luxe. Length is everything, so if you’ve found your perfect pair but they come up a little long, get them adjusted at a local tailor’s. It’s money well spent.




    Like with handbags, real leather tends to be the smarter choice over faux as it will wear better. Keep it in mint condition by regularly treating it with leather conditioner or balm. Inexpensive buckles and studs often fall off, so stick to simple, detail-free styles. Soles the same colour as the upper look more expensive and if you’re going for a heel, a block style is a safe bet, but avoid the stacked wooden effect. As for trainers, simple sporty shapes in white are a versatile choice. 





    Faux leather has come a long way in recent years, with brands like Stella McCartney demonstrating just how luxe it can be. However, if you don’t have an issue with real leather, then it’s still the gold standard in investment bags. Aim for the best quality you can afford in a matt finish (shiny looks cheap). Go for a style with minimal hardware and detailing; the more money spent on studs and buckles, the less you’re spending on the quality of the leather and the construction of the bag. 




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